Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bellevue Garden D'lights

We went to Bellevue's botanical gardens light show to see what we could see. Turns out they turned the gardens into a lovely light show at night, with displays in the shapes of flowers, trees and animals. It was fun and not too cold so we had a good time.

It's corn!

I want strawberry lights!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Snapshot of the Future

It's nearing the last week of the Fall quarter here, and I'm being thrust into the end of my graduate career. My time in California was good because it helped me understand my little life here in Seattle better. In just the last two years I feel like I've grown so much. From a recent repatriated soul to a now knowledgable academic.

I'm about 60 days away from taking the comprehensive exam and so have started studying much more rigorously. Also, to my surprise I recently got a job interview for an adjunct position at one of the local community colleges. This would be to teach 1 class for the winter quarter. When I received the email I was immediately delighted and excited. But then as I thought about it I realized that if I were to teach 1 class next quarter it would mean juggling that with studying for the comps, completing my internship and also taking 1 class in my program. The anxiety and stress of that realization hit me the first night, but I still accepted the interview. I'll be going to that on Monday.

If I get the job it would really help me be on track to have a job after I graduate. They could rehire me to teach more classes and it will look good on my resume as I continue to look for work.

With all the hoopla about how terrible adjuncting is, I think I'm going to have to see for myself. Sure I could end up teaching 1 class at one college and another somewhere else, but I feel like there will be some reward in that. Of course, not in perks such as health coverage...etc. But it was a goal of mine to teach at a community college by going into this degree. To have that goal come to life would be really fulfilling.

So obviously, I want to pass the interview and I'll do my best. My philosophy on interviews is that you can prepare as much as you want, but this is all about what happens when it happens. With that said, I am still preparing, haha. I've done some research into their programs and I'm using resources to practice answers for potential questions. I'll be interviewed by a small committee of faculty consisting of their Intensive English program, English for Academic Purposes and EAP - ESL (literacy) program. That means that I could be hired by any of those departments. Yet, it also means that I'll probably be asked questions ranging from how would I teach an EAP class to how I would teach an intensive writing class...hopefully I have enough answers to go around.

It's all exciting and I'm considering how I'll juggle it all next quarter (if I get the job). Mostly I'll be stressed in January until I take the comps. Thankfully, I already have notes and strategies for studying under way. I've also got a few study buddies to help me out. However, I wouldn't just taking it and getting it done!

In other news, not much else is happening. Winter in Seattle means the sun goes down early and the sky stays grey all day. Tomas seems to take this in by sleeping all day, then pestering me before bed time to play.

Well that's my life in a nutshell right now...amazing things seem to happen when you give up on worrying about them. :p

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Interlude

I've been taking a bit of a retreat lately here in the Northern California Foothills. I decided to take a week long break to visit family and relax from all the school-ness that has been happening.

The great thing about this visit, thus far, has been the abundant sunshine. Seattle has been living up to its reputation as a rainy city lately and I'm glad to encounter some sun while I'm out here.

Also just been admiring the California vibes that I've been seeing.

I guess after all my travels and experiences it feels a bit odd to come back to the city I went to high school in. But I was pleased to see people sitting around interacting with each other, instead of staring at their phones. It seems modern society has still not completely touched this small town.

I also enjoyed sitting out in the sun sketching the local scenery.

Cafe Mekka...still there...and still full of "white hippies"...

The Rock Shop...a staple little store that has been here since I was a kid visiting from Florida.

I did bring my notebooks and school work with me just in case I need to do anything. Or just in case I actually want to study...lack of motivation. But I do plan on studying once back in Seattle...back in rainy Seattle.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Diversity Career Fair at Cascadia College

Several weeks ago I got an email asking if I would like to come to a job fair sorta thing at Cascadia College. Since I'll be jumping into the job market, I figured why not and signed up. Cascadia College is one of the many community colleges in the surrounding area.

I'm going to share some highlights from going to this event and remarks on my experience.

Keynote & Networking Tables

The keynote was given by Jason Smith a Dean at Cascadia College. He talked about himself and he was a fun speaker. But he made some good points and one of which was to not think about things that you think would hold you back. For example, he said apply to a job even if you don't think you meet the criteria but that it excites you.

But he also gave some really great pointers on applying to jobs in this field in general. For one he said hiring committees are looking for experience working with teams, people who have cultural competence and who can have fun.  He also said that it's important we align our CV and resume with the institution's we want to work at. All of that makes sense, right!

Networking around the tables was quite productive. Here other colleges were represented either by HR teams or actual coordinators and faculty. Everett College seemed there in force and were really enthusiastic about my resume and interest. I spoke with other deans at other colleges and basically what I was told was to forward over my resume and then when job postings come up apply to them. A lot of them said that the next hiring they will do will be for the spring, which fits perfectly with my schedule. So I guess I might be a little early in my job hunt here, but I'm going to keep an eye out for sure.

Overall, I know I'm not that great when it comes to "working" the tables, but I gave it my best and did hand out a name card!

"What's a teaching demo"
By: Margaret "Peg" Balachowski (Everett College)

This was a good one hour presentation about the teaching demo that happens during the hiring process. It was also wrapped around general things that colleges are looking for in candidates. I found myself feeling really grateful to have been in my MA TESOL program at Seattle University because the presenter mentioned several key points in adult learning and that it helps if we know them, I was like "I know them!" Active-learning, learning styles, assessments, Kolb's Cycle...yep I've studied it!

Another key theme that was in her presentation but also in pretty much every other one, was that of "Do your homework". Meaning investigate the institution and get to know their mission, policies and overall agenda. This gives you credibility and foundations for which to do a teaching demo...etc.

For the teaching demo some good points she made was after you are given your teaching topic to research what would have been taught in the program before and after it. This way you can make sure you are aligned with their standards. Also she said to be prepared, stay on topic and know your audience (not the committee, the students).

I think I would be excited to give a teaching demo, but I would just be excited if they called me back for an interview.

Application and Interviewing Basics

This was put on by an HR person, so it was giving us insider knowledge. I was feeling pretty confident about everything until I came to this workshop. Here I was reminded of the hoops we have to jump through just to get our stuff to a hiring committee. I believe I have a good resume and cover letter built up but I was reminded that a second look is always good.

My lack of 2 solid years of adult education / ESL experience shows on my resume. I hope if I back that up on my Cover Letter and explain it that it moves me past HR. I'll try my best...that's all I can do.

One thing I like that she mentioned was to use key words from the job ad or in the industry in your resume and cover letter. Because HR does a lot of quick scanning of resumes they often use word-finding tools to find keywords. Other good tips were to be accurate in formatting and it helps if you have consistent date months and years for everything.

Start Smart and Stay Strong: Interview Tips for the First and Last 5 Minutes
Jeanne Leader (Everett College)

This was a fun last workshop of the day and I was reminded of how I actually enjoy interviews but it can be quite challenging to talk about yourself. She mentioned how to take special care of the first five minutes and to give a brief and on the point introduction of yourself. She also said to think of 6 values that describe yourself and then see how you can expand those into a story about your skills and experience.

She also mentioned that for the end of the interview to have questions prepared and to even tell a short little story about yourself. Perhaps a "take-away" thought on the whole thing.

What was interesting is her suggestion to make a small handout that has a fun image or design about yourself that they can have to keep. I wasn't sure about this, but it sounds like a workable idea.

Overall, the whole thing was quite invigorating and I feel like I understand better what they are looking for, what the hiring process is about and how I fit in to all of that. I definitely have some revising and editing to do on my own paperwork, but at least it's a step forward.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cold Snap

Seattle is experiencing a cold snap right now as part of a chilly weather system moving throughout the country. However, having lived through many really cold winters in Korea this one doesn't feel that cold.

Life of American Joy seems to continue on and I can't believe that I register for my last quarter of grad school next week. It's nearly been two years since I packed up and left Korea and I'm starting to consider my next move. I definitely want to try and make it here in America, and have been looking and applying for jobs locally. Tomorrow a local community college is holding a job fair for candidates that I was invited to. I've got a nice outfit, printed resumes and a hopeful spirit already to go.

Needless to say I am nervous about finishing grad school and then either having a job or not. I have some back up plans in my pocket, just in case. I'm sure I'll be fine as I have come this far.

I have been studying for the comps in my free time, these days. Mostly trying to get in the concepts and start thinking about how I would respond to the questions. In some sense I think going over everything I learned in the past year and a half has been kind of refreshing. Also, whenever I'm doing my work I try to connect theory to practice.

Speaking of work my internship has been running along quite smoothly. I've accumulated about 50 hours and I have to finish 120. My group of older Chinese folks have been fun to work with and it reminds me of the time I studied Chinese and was considering studying abroad there.

For Thanksgiving I'll be flying to California to visit my father and brother. I'm really looking forward to this and hope it gives me some pep of inspiration for my future endeavors. Well that is life in a nutshell right now. A lot of nostalgic feelings for living abroad, current happenings and future planning.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

WAESOL 2014 Conference - Wrap Up

As you might recall, last year I presented a Teaching Tip at the WAESOL Conference. This year I didn't because it was actually very stressful to do that, and I would rather present on something with someone that I'm really passionate about. Anyway, I still attended this year's conference and tried to pick presentations I thought would be most beneficial to my future job hunt and position.

I didn't make it to hear the whole Keynote speech, but I heard it was pretty insightful.

I. Cultivating relationship between non-native and native speakers through writing
Mary Browning

I picked this one because it captivated my attention as I feel in IEP programs ELL students are often enclosed in their program and invisible to the rest of the campus. So this was actually a panel presentation with three presenters. They each talked about tools they have been using to cross the bridge between ELLs at their school and native speakers.

One person's program was to create a pen-pal writing situation. Where students passed along a notebook writing to each other. At the end of the semester a party would be held so the participants could finally meet each other. They said that this has been really successful on so many levels. For one it helped the native-speakers understand the ELLs on campus and also helped them encounter non-native English speakers for the first time (especially important in more rural campus settings). For the ELLs they were able to express themselves more freely in the language and get to know their local culture better.

I did attend another session later on that happened to have the same speaker, where she said she does the same thing but now digitally through Canvas. It seemed to still be a success but I think the effect of seeing a notebook is a little bit better.

I might consider doing something similar if given the opportunity. Another speaker talked about how they created a writing class that purposefully included NNES and NES students so that they could interact with each other. This was also found to be a success and reflective exercises showed that students enjoyed this.

Overall, I think I have to remember the interactions that happen in these programs and whether or not we are promoting exclusivity on campus by having IEP programs and what we can do to have our students interact more with the wider student body. Just cause you have diverse populations on campus, doesn't necessarily mean "diversity" is occurring.

II. Handwriting for success: Helping Arab students improve their orthography
William F. Gibson & Emily H. Van Dyke-Morris (ACE Language Institute at SPU)

This was the highlight of my trip to the conference. Why? Because it seemed to address real exemplified issues these students have with writing. It definitely helped me realize that we have forgotten that writing in English is an actual skill, especially if you are coming from a language whose orthography is quite different. We have seen that Arab students tend to write over the lines on the paper, and that they merge words together, forget to capitalize..etc. Also it's not just Arab students but other students have similar issues.

They suggested going back to the basics and having students practice writing the letters (in cursive) with practice sheets and practice paper. They showed us the NALA Better Handwriting for Adults Packet which you can get here. I highly recommend downloading it and printing it for students.

You may think that teaching adult students to write their ABCs in cursive is a bit childish. Well, take into consideration that a perspective like that is one we have, because that's when we learned it. For Adult students teaching them how to write will have so many benefits to their writing production it is a good place to start. Also, I feel students will have "Ah-ha" moments when they go through the exercises.

Some benefits would be more flow of ideas so writing faster will improve. Ability to organize their thoughts better and an overall better experience for the reader.

I'm definitely a fan of this presentation which seemed to cover its bases and present very useful information.

III. Creating communicative assessments: True indicators of student achievement
Mari Bodensteiner and Michelle Burkhart (WWU)

I really wanted to get in some assessment learning because I feel that is going to be a challenge when I start teaching full time, so I was excited for this. However, I don't think it really helped me much. I mean I understood that we need to get away from handing students fill-in-the-blank exercises and have them communicate their answers differently, but I wasn't sure I understood really what to do.

However, I liked their mention of using authentic assessment and to access students higher order thinking abilities.

There was some disagreement in the room that if we ask students to speak about the reading exercise they just did that now we aren't assessing their reading, but rather their speaking, to which a lot of the room disagreed (including myself).

My qualms with this is though, that students may experience fatigue with this kind of assessment because it isn't what they are used to or expecting. They may just want the "test" and to get it done and over with. Considering a lot of IEP programs have a lot of reading and writing, throwing more at them might be overwhelming. I asked if this has been successful for students from their perspective and was told they are still working those things out. In that case I would consider a blended approach to this kind of assessment.

It also reminds me of something I have been thinking about lately and that is why do most IEP programs not track student's homework or assessments beyond the "big stuff". If students have 6 classes in a day and each class ends up giving them a writing assignment, can we really expect our students to complete all of them with enough energy? That is why I think each student should be given a portfolio to track what homework they are doing, and that teachers should share (in some form) what homework they are giving out. Perhaps this can be done digitally or on a shared board in the office. If I know that most of my students have writing homework assignments I'll consider dolling out something different, so I know they will have enough energy for it. I think this kind of accountability system would also show students we understand their perspective and we are holding ourselves accountable for the amount of homework we give out. I recently heard from new IEP teachers that their students constantly don't have their homework or turn it in late. Punishing them will only go so far, what kind of system can we put in place to fix this?


As you can see I'm starting to create a dialog in my head about the challenges ahead in my profession. I don't know for sure whether I will teach in an IEP (Intensive English Program) here or not, but I'm pretty sure it's possible. I do know that I hope to get job interviews in this sector so that is why I'm thinking about these issues and what I would say in response.

The last presentation I attended was about using Canvas in the classroom or technology with students in Online learning situations. But by then I was very tired and couldn't get into it. CALL, MALL and other tech-teaching is a constantly evolving paradigm. I don't know if there is a right or best way to approach it. I think students would just mostly like their learning to be easier, smoother and probably more fun and if technology can do that than good!

Overall, the conference was inspiring and I went home with a lot more insights than last year. I would love to get into the profession now and work up my own background to present at future conferences. Till then...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall color

On my walk home today from my GI appointment I picked up some fall leaves. I've been wanting to paint them and so I finally pushed everything else aside and did just that. Because why not! There is always time later to work on cover letters!

I set them up...

And here is the result...

I would love to continue but I'll need to start getting ready for class tonight soon. In the meantime, this was a nice escape from the responsibilities of adulthood.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Snoqualmie Falls ~

Around the first week of the Fall Quarter I went with a friend to Snoqualmie Falls located near Issaquah, which is not too far from me. It was a really lovely time with a view of the waterfall and hike through the woods on a late summer-early fall day.

These days I am entrenched in my school work, internship and studying for the Comprehensive Exam (which are essay questions, btw). I've managed to get a good running start on my school work so that has left time to study for the Comps and think about my impending job hunt. I feel like I should keep an eye out for job ads as it is possible some schools will start looking now for spring hires. But it made me realize I need to make sure I have cover letters and other materials ready. I should practice writing cover letters so that it won't be too stressful when the time comes. Also some schools ask for a "Teaching Philosophy" and even a "Diversity Statement". Thankfully, I am taking the Multi-cultural perspectives class right now which is helping me develop that statement of diversity.

Otherwise, I'm starting to feel too competitive with this job hunt thing. I want it to be more of an adventure and way to express my achievements.

Let's look at more Falls pictures...

When you hike down the mountain you come to the Snoqualmie River, then you go around a little bend and get to see the Falls in all its glory! Go hydraulic power! (picture below)

Now the leaves are changing colors and the rain is pouring down. I hope this winter won't be too cold, but heck it won't be as cold as Korea was.

So next weekend is the WAESOL conference (just one day) and I have figured out what I want to see. A lot of good stuff to choose from. I presented last year, and I'm not this year. It was really stressful and I feel like if I do that again I would love to do it as a team so you can have more of a discussion.

Other than that just trying to pep myself up for job hunting and comps taking. ... winter is coming. ;)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Where I'm From Poem...

For my Multi-cultural perspectives class part of our first assignment is to write a "Where I'm From..." Poem inspired by George Ella Lyon's creation as seen here.

The following is my own "Where I'm From..." creation. Forgive me if it comes off a bit choppy, this first week of the quarter has been somewhat of a whopper.

Where I’m From…

I am from dreams.
From Pthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson
I am from tall ceilings and cement floors. Unpainted walls and spiders.
It sounded like frogs croaking and lightening crackling through the sky.
I am from the Atlantic waters, the yellow sand, coarse and glittering.
I am from the birdie ball for Xmas and the pursuit of spirituality, from Carole, David, Jon and Puja.
I’m from the fighting and frustration.
From the “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” And “Quiet thoughts”.
I’m from the waiting room of a church playing pogs with my brother on a Friday night.
I’m from Florida, California, South Korea and Seattle, tofu spinach pie and matza ball soup.

I am from the dreams of my mother and father transformed through the colors of pigment on paper.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Wet Returns

The wetness that defines Seattle as Seattle returned last week. It felt like Fall had come barging in telling Summer to hurry up and pack. But that's okay, because the wetness has been a comforting return. It helps me focus on my studies and as Ian says doesn't make you feel guilty for staying inside.

But I went out anyway and took a stroll through the falling light rain of September.

Fall quarter also started last week and I only had to attend one class but already I can tell this quarter is going to give me enough flexibility to stay focused and work on things at the same time. The Structures of English II class doesn't seem too demanding but will also really help me understand more about grammar.

Well, let's see more drippy photos...

A while ago I moved my furniture around and this caused Tom to not have a spot at the window. So he has been sitting in my one and only chair (my desk chair). I went out to the Goodwill and found this spectacular stool for Tom and he took to it right away. I love how it matches him...:)

And well.... happy birthday to me!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Creating my own travel watercolor box

I think every year around my birthday I go on a shopping frenzy, where I tell myself I need to go and get myself a present. That's what happened today as I went art supply shopping all around town. I  realised what I really wanted was to make my own travel watercolor box. I've been wanting to draw and paint on the road or in a cafe - wherever - since I got to Seattle. I do follow some blogs where people do this (you can see those links on the side). So after some research I headed to Daniel Smith's. Their prices weren't cheap but they had the paint pans that I needed and other things.

I also stopped at Daiso and found a great plastic compartment container for the paint pans. They fit snugly inside and were adhered using double sided tape, also found at Daiso. I miss the real Daiso that I went to in Korea, but I'll take what I can get. 

 (Above: Assembling the paint pan box. Below: Adding the paints.)

I made a little chart for myself so I know what they are when I go out into the field. The real money was spent on the Moleskin watercolor sketchbook and new brushes, including two water brush pens (they hold water inside a small tank). You can see I put in a range of colors and left one pan empty, as I am not sure what to add - maybe another yellow or maybe a color I buy along the way. Thankfully the pans can be removed and moved around.

Okay, sorry the picture came out vertical. But what you see here is from the top left: Moleskine sketchbook, underneath that a pouch to carry it all with some water spraying devices next to it, underneath all that are some waterproof pens. Then the upper right corner has a ceramic tray for mixing, a metal container with a lid (not sure what I will do with this, maybe carry water....hmm). The brush pens and some tissues that are in a fun travel size.

I hope this compels me to get out and sketch and paint, after a day of studying. As the cooler air sets in, along with the rain, I can take this to a cafe or someplace and sketch / color away. Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lincoln Park

What was Summer 2014 like? For me it felt like it went by really fast but I somehow managed to get out and do a few things. I visited a lot of parks in the Seattle area and one of them was Lincoln Park. It's nestled next to the Puget Sound in West Seattle. There were some lovely trails and then a really nice long walk near the water.

Summer also felt like a time where I pretended to not be a student. I didn't really study the comps notes I created for myself. However, I did crack open my Keith Folse grammar book and taught myself a few things. I'm still getting the hang of really being able to understand grammar and what students really need to know. Hopefully this coming grammar course I'm taking this fall will help with that. The rain is expected to come this week and these summer photos will be a great way to look back at the warm and lovely summer we've had this year.

The park also has a pool alongside it, which is apparently treated with Puget Sound water that is also heated. Perhaps I should pay it a visit next summer when it is in season again.

I'm constantly amazed every time I visit the Puget Sound how clear the water is, and usually stand by the shore and just watch the water lap back and forth.

Two more quarters left people! I took a look at those comps notes today and felt a bit of stress knowing I need to start understanding it all. Just trying to shake off my summer haze and get back into studying. Hopefully the cooler weather and hot tea will help with that.